Lost in translation – May 2008

It seemed fitting to explore ‘Lost in translation’ in a church. So we were delighted when Reverend Charles Headley offered us his parish church in the heart of Piccadilly, the Sir Christopher Wren designed St James. The eager audience was hushed in reverence while our speakers took their turns at the lectern.

The films of Hackney born filmmaker and writer Asif Kapadia are defined as much by their cinematography, natural landscapes and atmospheric lighting as their characterization and dialogue. By using folktales, myths and fables as starting points, the director exploits their universal appeal to connect with his audience wherever in the world they happen to be. Asif explained how an intense creative dialogue with his writing partner Tim Miller enabled him to bring to life a tragic drama set in India based on an ancient asian folk fable resulting in the film ‘The Warrior’. An enthralling and suspense filled clip from the film followed, perfectly illustrating one of the re-occurring concerns at the heart his work – the importance of the story. Referencing another of his films ‘Far North’ filmed on location in the arctic wilderness, Asif revealed how he strives to exploit film as a highly visual medium.

Pippa Small has combined her talents as an anthropologist and jewellery maker to explore opportunities to work on craft initiatives with indigenous communities all over the world, including the San Bushmen of the Kalahari, the Batwa Pygmies of Rwanda, and the Kuna in Panama, helping them to research their traditional designs to generate self-sufficiency and income. Showing a dazzling array of images gathered from her world travels of people and their customs, Pippa recounted her myriad experiences, and argued that it was not so much what was lost in translation that was interesting to her but rather what was found.

Determined to dispel the widely accepted perception of the scientist as guarded lab geek biotechnology consultant Dr Jennifer Rohn spoke candidly about how scientists communicate perfectly well with each other, informally and outside of the lab. But when it comes to communicating their work and ideas to the ‘outside’ world, the language becomes formal and impenetrable and she cited many amusing anecdotes of when the two worlds collided.

With short readings interspersed between each speaker, writer Frank Key bamboozled the audience with his special and unique brand of be-fuddled prose!

Chair for the evening, brand strategist and innovator Simon Sholl reflected on the points raised by our speakers and pondered the notion of ‘lost in translation’ concluding with the thought that all human beings make assumptions about themselves, their lives and their place within existence -and no two sets of assumptions are the same. This creates a fundamental block in our ability to communicate with each other – and only by learning to challenge those assumptions will we find a common language with which to communicate, directly, viscerally and fully.

Ed Park photographed and Stefania Loschi illustrated the event.